Modern replica of a Viking ship. Photo by Tamtam.
The Vikings In Ireland
These Scandinavians were known both as great warriors and sailors who travelled in long ships. They started their raids in France, Britain and then to Ireland in AD 790. The isolated island monasteries made easy and fruitful pickings for these raiders. Initially they only attacked within 20 miles of the coast and only later did they start to move further inland. The first recorded Viking attack took place in Ireland in AD795. They lasted for several decades and they managed to establish base camps in Dublin, a major port. The Gaelic Ireland they invaded found itself without any political structure to face such a well organized and aggressive foe.
Viking settlements and voyages. Map by Pinpin.
With a sound base they then began about conquering Ireland; however the Irish Kings started a fight back and forced the Vikings to return and consolidate their positions in Dublin, Wexford, and Waterford. These various Viking settlements began to develop into small kingdoms of their own throughout Ireland, and just compounded the existing series of power struggles, that already existed between the various kings. Once the Vikings started to settle in Ireland, they did of course become more prone to attack from the already feuding kings.
In AD 914 a huge Viking presence arrived in Waterford and a new campaign began, where they attacked Munster and Leinster and defeated the Ui Neills. The Viking age lasted until the 11th Century and they introduced money to Irish society. The fact that they had settled in Ireland meant that they actually contributed to Irish society, not only through coinage, but also in advanced shipping techniques and in trading.
Until the Vikings had introduced a currency the main bartering tool was cows. Not only did they provide food and hides, but they were also heavily used for buying, selling and the exchange of goods. There is even today a strong sense of the Viking influence, especially in Dublin. There is a very good Viking tour that takes place there and if you have the opportunity, it is worth taking this to understand how the River Liffey in Dublin, made the Viking attacks possible.
This book contains contributions by many leading scholars in Viking studies from Ireland, Britain, and Scandinavia, on diverse subjects including archaeological excavation, art historical analysis, linguistics, literature, politics, historical sources, numismatics, environmental remains, human remains, and artifact studies from c.795 to 1170. Aimed at both the non-specialist and the specialist reader, the book will prove to be a landmark publication in Viking studies for years to come. ***Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2016 by Choice Magazine!! *** “This book takes a textual and archaeological look at the Viking presence in Ireland from its early ninth-century beginnings to 12th-century cultural memories. The Battle of Clontarf in 1014 is a chronological anchor but not a focal point of the collection. The publication boasts color photographs, an index of proper names (only), and a solid introductory essay. A valuable, updated resource for Viking scholars and students.” — Choice, Vol. 53, No. 7, March 2016 [Subject: History, Medieval Studies, Archaeology, Viking Studies, Irish Studies]